Consumption times a billion

The previous post on the emergence of new technologies focused on the poor has sparked debate or ruminations at the very least over the effects such increases in macro-consumption would have on India and the world. Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution raises valid concerns regarding the potential widespread adoption of the Tata Nano and its subsequent effect on carbon emissions:

It was reading about the new $2500 car, from India, that got me worried.  Let’s say the new technology is more carbon-friendly than what we do now, but still generates some carbon.  (That sounds reasonable, no?)  The new energy technology is really cheap, so lots more people — most of all in China and India and Africa — enter carbon-using sectors of the economy.  Even if the new technology is three times as carbon-efficient, if the world as a whole uses three times more energy, carbon emissions do not go down.  The basic problem is the combination of low costs and many people standing on the verge of the carbon-using sector of the economy.

We must always be aware of the holistic effects that new technologies may have on the people, the environment and the economy, and while this author is by no means disparaging the amazing innovative feat made by Tata it only seems responsible to highlight such reservations as well.


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